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First Starbucks at sea steams into Florida port (Reuters)

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (Reuters) – Coffee lovers looking for a bit of sea air flavor in their espresso or Frappuccino might want to sample the first Starbucks at sea, which steamed into a Florida port on Thursday on board the world’s largest cruise liner.

Seattle-based Starbucks Corp, the world famous coffee chain, already has a nautical link — its founders took the name from Starbuck, the first mate on the Pequod whaler from Nantucket that hunted the white whale, Moby Dick, in Herman Melville’s famous novel.

The floating Starbucks Cafe is among a panoply of dining and entertainment options offered aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, sister of the Oasis of the Seas, hitherto the world’s biggest cruise ship which the company brought into operation last year.

Royal Caribbean executives say the Allure is almost 2 inches (50 millimeters) longer than the Oasis.

The Starbucks at sea is being operated under a license between the world’s largest coffee maker and Royal Caribbean, which will run the Allure and the Oasis from its Port Everglades base on Florida’s southeast coast.

“Starbucks is an example of something that people, when they move from their daily world to the world of vacation, they don’t necessarily want to leave that behind,” Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Adam Goldstein told CNN this week.

Like its sister ship Oasis, the 225,285-gross ton Allure has 16 decks. It carries 5,400 guests at double occupancy, and features 2,700 staterooms.

The ship offers seven distinct themed “neighborhoods”, which include a tree-lined Central Park, Boardwalk, the Royal Promenade, the Pool and Sports Zone, Vitality at Sea Spa and Fitness Center, Entertainment Place and Youth Zone.

Allure will operate in the Caribbean and a special four-night sailing of the luxury liner on December 1 will call at the cruise line’s private beach destination of Labadee, on the north coast of Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest country.

(Reporting by Joe Skipper, Pascal Fletcher and Tom Brown; Editing by Anthony Boadle)

Prison to install sunbeds for inmates (Reuters)

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MOSCOW (Reuters) – One of Russia’s most notorious prisons will soon install sunbeds to improve the health of its inmates, its head said on Tuesday.

Styled as a brick fortress, the 19th century Butyrka prison in central Moscow has held a slew of notable figures behind its bars, from persecuted Soviet-era writers Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Isaak Babel to Adolf Hitler’s nephew Heinrich.

“We are developing additional medical services … and even sunbeds will be put in place,” Butyrka’s head Sergei Telyatnikov told state-run radio station Vesti FM.

The sunbeds, which Telyatnikov said would be used for medical purposes, will be installed by the end of the year, the state-run RIA news agency said.

Russia’s crowded, poorly managed prison system came under increased scrutiny after the November 2009 death of jailed lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who spent much of the last months of his life in Butyrka.

Lawyers for the 37-year-old, who was an adviser to Hermitage, once the biggest equity investment fund in Russia, said he was kept in custody illegally and not given proper medical treatment in prison despite repeated requests.

In an unusual admission, the Federal Prison Service said it was partly responsible for Magnitsky’s death.

Earlier this year, the prison service said almost half of Russia’s inmates are ill, many infected with HIV or with tuberculosis. It blamed outdated medical equipment for disease and health problems.

Telyatnikov said inmates will also have access to ultrasound systems to “check up on their health,” and could even have spa facilities such as mud baths in the future.

Supporters of Magnitsky say Butyrka lacked ultrasound equipment he needed when he was there.

Telyatnikov added that inmates will also be allowed to use Skype, which offers relatively cheap voice and video calls over the Internet, to contact their relatives.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Paul Casciato)

German judge lets speeding drivers off the hook (Reuters)

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BERLIN (Reuters) – A German judge has shot to popularity after letting 42 speeding drivers off without charges in the last week because he thinks speed controls merely serve to fill the state’s coffers rather than prevent accidents.

Bernd Kahre, spokesman for Herford court in northwestern Germany where judge Helmut Knoener works, told Reuters the 62-year-old wanted to make a stand against the current practice of prosecuting speeders.

He said Knoener believed speed controls were not conducted to ensure greater road safety, but rather to provide the cash-strapped state with an additional source of income.

Knoener sees no legal justification for using photos in speeding-related court cases and is calling for clearer regulations about how, when and where speed controls can be conducted.

But the speeders who think they’ve got off scot free may be in for a shock yet — the Public Prosecution Service can still appeal the sentences, Kahre said.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin, editing by Paul Casciato)

One in four socialises more online than in person

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One in four people spend more time socialising online than they do in person, according to research. One in four people spend more time socialising online than they do in person, according to research. Photo: BLOOMBERG

People now have 11 different ways of staying in contact with their friends from the comfort of their sofa or bedroom.

These include simple email, messenger, text and several forms of social networking from Twitter to Facebook, said the survey by online casino Yazino.

It found even when there is time to see people face to face, like at a weekend, up to 11 per cent of all adults still choose to stay indoors and communicate instead.

This could be down to laziness, the cost of going out or simply not wanting too much personal contact with friends and family but just enough to swap brief messages and online chats.

It all adds up. The average online Brit spends 4.6 hours a week talking to friends online and only six hours a week talking to people in person, said Yazino.

There is even an army of ‘extreme sofalisers’ – the three per cent who spend a staggering 25 hours or more each week talking to friends via electronic devices.

The survey of 2,000 adults also found 11 per cent organise all their social diary around Facebook, Bebo or other network sites.

Yazino founder Hussein Chahine said: “Communication is constantly evolving. Some people are as used to seeing their friends online avatar as they are their face.

“We are now just as likely to SMS or email a friend as we are to call them.

“People increasingly prefer quick and frequent engagement with instant updates on news than a prolonged chat and are also finding new ways to catch up with friends from their comfort of their sofa.

More than seven in ten (71 per cent) text their friends and family and 31 per cent use social networking sites while just 27 per cent now use email as their primary means of contact.

A further 18 per cent use live chat and instant messaging systems.

Glam in the Gulf: Get a glitzy tattoo in real gold (Reuters)

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DUBAI (Reuters) – Forget the henna and flashy jewelry, the latest accessory trend for the fashion-conscious party-goer in Dubai is a temporary tattoo made of real gold.

A new business in Dubai is offering temporary 24-carat gold tattoos as the ideal body adornment for weddings and other special occasions at a modest starting price of $50, an affordable option given rising gold prices.

Precious Skin has two outlets in Dubai — one at the luxury, sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel — which will design and apply body tattoos made of 99.9 percent gold or platinum to add a bit of glitz to your personal style.

“It’s a revolution in the body art business, it’s the first time we can use 24 carat gold and platinum on skin,” said Arnaud Flambeau, managing director of Flambeau Luxury Trading and Precious Skin.

Originally a Japanese concept, Flambeau thought the idea would catch on in the Gulf, where many women have temporary henna tattoos applied for weddings and special occasions.

“We have had a lot of interest so far because it’s a new idea and a new product that’s between jewelry, makeup and accessories and it’s a lot easier to make the decision to get a gold tattoo than buy new jewelry,” said Flambeau.

A thin film of gold or platinum is used to make the tattoo which is then applied to the skin and can last for up to a week, he said.

“More elaborate and larger designs can cost up to $5,500, and the idea really is just to have something that is very unique and new,” Flambeau said.

“We plan to have a total of 25 branches in Dubai over the coming year and by January we will be in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.”

Branded as the city of gold, Dubai’s gold retail sector has faced huge drops in sales as cash strapped consumers struggled to keep demand up with rising prices for the yellow metal.

Spot gold gained 0.3 percent to $1,407.34 an ounce on Thursday, just off an all-time high of $1,424.10 hit on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by Paul Casciato)

No kimonos for APEC leaders in Japan (Reuters)

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YOKOHAMA, Japan (Reuters) – Chinese President Hu Jintao won’t have to worry about maybe having to put on a kimono at the weekend APEC summit in the midst of his row with Japan over disputed islands.

The leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum have been asked to wear “smart casual” for the commemorative photograph of their summit, being held this year in Japan’s port city of Yokohama, a Japanese government official said.

Summit hosts usually try to keep the APEC leaders’ costumes under wrap, so to speak, to provide a little frisson at the otherwise anodyne convocations.

The 21 APEC leaders usually dress up in native attire for what’s come to be known as a “silly shirts” class photo that concludes the summit. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton began the fashion show tradition by outfitting the leaders in black leather bombardier jackets at the 1993 summit in Seattle.

Previous meetings have seen the leaders don Chilean ponchos, Chinese silk jackets, batik shirts, Korean Hanboks, Vietnamese silk tunics, Mexican sombreros, New Zealand sailing jackets and Australian Drizabone raincoats.

The leaders gamely grin for excited photographers but some have looked decidedly ill at ease in tight silk gowns or rainbow ponchos.

The government official declined to give a reason for this year’s fashion decision, but traditional kimono, once the preferred dress of samurai, aristocrats and workers alike, could have made some of the leaders look uncomfortable, including Hu, who favors dark Western business suits.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has been angling for a bilateral meeting with Hu in Yokohama. Sino-Japanese relations have taken a sharp dive due to a feud over claims to isles in the East China Sea near potentially huge maritime gas and oil reserves.

Perhaps they will have an opportunity to chat at the Kabuki show before the photo session. The highly stylized classical Japanese dance drama is known for the elaborate make-up worn by some of its performers.

U.S. President Barack Obama will host next year’s summit in Honolulu. He has joked that he looks forward to seeing the leaders “all decked out in flowered shirts and grass skirts.”

(Reporting by William Tarrant; Additional reporting by Yoko Nishikawa and Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Edmund Klamann)